For 2019 ski pant selection, our test team reached further afield. We've broadened the scope to include backcountry skiing pants in addition to the resort pants we've always tested. The Arc'teryx Rush LT is a backcountry-specific hardshell pant. This is interesting. For the most part, hardshell pants are either resort-specific or at least cross-promoted as resort gear and backcountry pants. Dedicated ski touring pants are generally soft shell in nature. With the unique branding and targeted design, we were intrigued by the Arc'teryx Rush LT. Interestingly, we aren't "sold" on the idea. Lightweight, hardshell ski touring pants is perhaps an idea that we aren't ready for yet. Or they just don't fit in most applications. Read on for further detail.
As compared to the breadth and depth of our excellent ski pant field, the Rush LT is nothing special regarding performance. The construction and materials are top notch, but the application is just too darn specific.
The Rush LT is super waterproof for wetter and windier backcountry skiing.
With the Rush LT, Arc'Teryx appears to have attempted to take their renowned hiking and climbing shell pant construction and materials and shape it into ski pants. The result, predictably, is excellent weather protection. These protect against the harshest and wettest of weather, with virtually no compromises. Our only criticism is that one pocket does not have a zipper (so snow and wetness can get inside the pocket. It won't get inside the pants, but it will sit there, cold and wet, against your leg). Otherwise, the Gore-Tex fabric and waterproof zippers are complemented by excellent seam sealing and Arc'Teryx's "durable water repellent" coating that is virtually unmatched. Other pants that replicate this level of protection are the FlyLow Baker Bibs and the Editors' Choice Arc'teryx Sabre.
The cuffs of the Rush LT are built to work with lighter ski boots. We like this.
Fit and Comfort
First, on sizing. The Rush LT seems to run just a touch small and short. If you are between sizes, order the larger of your two options. If you are a medium 90% of the time, go with a medium. The sizing differential isn't significant, but it is there.
Next, on comfort. In testing other categories of shell gear, we have long wished that Arc'teryx would make their shells from quieter and softer fabric. The same goes for the Rush LT. Especially when users might wear this product against the skin (Arc'Teryx makes a point of noting that wearers should use a soft lining fabric) and in high-output situations, employing a more flexible and less "scratchy" external fabric would be appreciated. The Rush LT (and other Arc'Teryx shell clothing) eventually quiets down with wear and use, but it is pretty crinkly when new. If you choose to wear these directly against your skin, make sure it is a warm day, or you are putting out tons of heat. The thin fabric is pretty cold against the skin. A more robust "fleecy" lining would be appreciated in all but the most California-like of ski conditions. Interestingly, for wearing without long underwear while ski touring, most of our test team preferred the resort-specific Arc'teryx Sabre pants to the Rush LT. The fleecy lining of the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker soft-shell pants is even more comfortable.
The cut and tailoring of the Rush LT have more in common with rain pants than with your typical ski pants.
Lastly, what about the bib construction? This is also an interesting choice from Arc'teryx. The high waist keeps out the drafts and eliminates a waistband to constrict. But it adds heat and insulation in warm conditions and complicates layer adjustments. It wasn't unanimous, but generally, our test team wished that these were just regular pants.
The exterior, non-mesh backed vents lead the field. One of the side zips goes all the way to the high waistband for both further venting and for donning and doffing of the pants. The only pants that vent better are the FlyLow pants that have vents on both inner and outer legs.
The long external leg vents open wide for maximum airflow.
These are function-first ski pants. The look is decidedly "alpine." Aside from the wide cuffs to go over ski boots, these look like your typical hiking or climbing rain pants.
You shouldn't be expecting much warmth from the Rush LT. These are just shell pants. In initial product selection, when reading Arc'teryx catalog copy, we expected that the "C-Knit" fabric lining would provide a little more fleecy or fuzzy warmth and comfort. We pictured something like the fuzzy lining of the Arc'Teryx Sabre. That is not the case. The Gore-Tex C-Knit fabric is a little softer on the inside than your typical rain pants, but it doesn't add any insulating value, perceived or real. These offer about the same warmth as the FlyLow Chemical and a little more than the Patagonia Descensionist.
The shell fabric of the Rush LT is kind of loud and "scratchy", especially when brand new.
The only features to note are the pockets. The (abdomen?) pocket is configured to hold an avalanche transceiver, with a place to tether it. The two thigh pockets are useful, though the one just has a flap and no zipper. Smaller things will not be as secure in that pocket.
The high waist of the Rush LT is an interesting choice. It definitely protects better but makes for a somewhat confining pile of fabric around one's waist.
We struggle to think of any sort of widely appealing applications for these pants. In most human-powered ski touring situations, more breathable and flexible softshell pants are preferred. In stormy human-powered ski touring, your regular resort pants will totally suffice. The only real users that might dig these pants are those that do not or will not own regular ski resort pants. That subset is very small, but exists. That subset, though, is still faced with a choice. These pants are not necessarily a ton better for stormy backcountry skiing than many ski resort pants.
Super expensive and filling a narrow niche, with major configuration limitations (why a bib, for instance?) is not the recipe for an excellent value.
Arc'Teryx makes both proven and established products and shoots out there a little from time to time. These are a bit of a wild card, aiming at what appears to be a very small niche of users. In that small category, they still might not be the best choice.